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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Excited about Tocai Friulano


Tocai Friulano - another confusing grape with a juicy Italian name and an nefarious French connection. Tocai seems to be related to Sauvignon Blanc, and by extension possibly identical to Sauvignon Vert, which is the supposedly shameful clone that has caused Chile to reexamine all of its Sauv Blanc. Others believe that it is related to Hungary's Furmint, hence that confusing conflation of Hungarian Tokaji and Tokai names, and the TTB issuing new labeling guidelines in that vein. If it is considered a "lesser" form of Sauvignon Blanc, the Italian Tocai provides a nice white, relatively low in acid but with some of Sauvignon green melon and passion fruit flavors minus the cat pee and asparagus. I also find a bit of Pinot Blanc-ish light-in-the-loafersness plus some honeyedness depending on how it is fermented that I go crazy for (in the right hands). It can take a touch of oak in fermentation. Sounds like a winner right? I thought so too as I sampled random grapes from Lowell Stone's vineyard in Napa. The decision maker was a bottle of Larkmead's Tocai from their own plot of 100-year-old vines, a nicely balanced, elegant Napa take on Ital/French white that I just can't argue with. Long story short, we get a ton on Friday!
Incidentally, there are three VCR clones now, meaning that if it is just Sauvignon Vert, the Italians are taking it awfully seriously. It is the white complement to Refosco in Friuli, insert shameless plug for a varietal we make when we can, and by the way, our 200 newly planted Refosco vines are doing quite well, don't think we lost a single one. An ironic twist is that generally the red Refosco is higher in acid than than the white Tocai, supporting the notion that understanding Italian wine is for those with too much time on their hands.

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